Day Shift Review
EMBARGO: August 11th at 9pm EST
A sun-soaked vampire movie is rare to come by when its creatures are usually averse to the sun. However, J.J. Perry’s Day Shift spins a world where day and night, vampires are being hunted by bounty hunters looking to take their teeth and make a profit off them. Moving from stunt coordinator on films like The Fate of the Furious and John Wick: Chapter 2 to director, Perry applies slick action to an otherwise standard horror-comedy premise that has enough fresh ideas to make up for the few areas where it lacks.
Starring Jamie Foxx as Bud Jablonski, Day Shift goes the John Wick route of worldbuilding through a character’s journey. To everyone he knows, Bud is a pool repairman who is just trying to make ends meet. However, that’s just a cover as he’s really hunting down vampires and extracting their teeth so he can make a few hundred dollars a pair. After a routine vampire killing, Bud eventually finds himself the target of the ruthless Audrey San Fernando (Karla Souza) who seeks vengeance on Bud for the murder of his daughter.
All the while he’s being hunted though, Bud is just trying to scrounge up enough money to keep his daughter going to school near him. Barred from a vampire hunting union for recklessness, he gets one last opportunity to rejoin but with one catch: he has to be followed by a union rep. The typical buddy cop formula stands front and center for large chunks of Day Shift as a desperate Bud is forced to work alongside Seth (Dave Franco) if he wants to make enough money to keep his daughter near him.
Stakes are relatively low throughout Day Shift despite some background worldbuilding and a nefarious scheme to get vampires out in the sun again. It’s a tantalizing concept but Tyler Tice and Shay Hatten’s screenplay keeps it all in the background. Focused primarily on Bud as a character and his low-stakes plight, there’s a sense of urgency in all his interactions while still trying to keep a cool head on in the face of pure evil.
The actual attempts at comedy in Day Shift feel trite at best. A couple chuckles here and there, but most of the jokes are uninspired and simply injected for forced levity. The chemistry just isn’t there between Foxx and Franco, which is a shame because they are both doing a decent job in their respective roles. Charismatic as Foxx is, he just doesn’t mesh with Franco’s frequent whining and rule-abiding desk jockey character.
Separated though, or put within an action scene, and Foxx comes alive. The stunt choreography is sublime as it utilizes fast-paced vampires that can take a punch and literally contort into grotesque figures in the heat of combat. There is nothing cooler than watching Bud shoot a shotgun into a quickly descending vampire and seeing them curl backwards until their head meets their feet and the floor. Mostly taking place within houses and buildings due to the time of day when the fights occur, every action scene is confined but every inch of space is used effectively. There’s a constant adrenaline rush to every skirmish and while some occasionally noticeable digital effects can take the wind out of a beat, it never tarnishes the scene itself.
Day Shift definitely comes off feeling a bit like John Wick with vampires, but it’s the small creative flourishes that elevate it beyond such a simple premise. The decision to set the film during the day is refreshing, reminiscent of a movie like John Carpenter’s Vampires, and allows for more rules of the monsters to be addressed diegetically. Add to that a decision to go more action than horror and Day Shift ends up having a bit more of a unique identity. Perry also brings in multiple types of vampires and introduces a hierarchy of sorts. It’s not exactly fleshed out much and is explained through unnecessary exposition, but the idea is promising enough.
It’s the fact that Day Shift is always hinting at a larger world that makes it better than it seems on paper. A buddy action film with vampires is a fun concept, but it’s the material Perry decides to put on the fringes of Bud’s personal story that lets Day Shift feel confined but also ambitious. It never quite approaches any of its neat ideas, but what’s here is entertaining and engrossing with the potential to be expanded upon in the future – much like John Wick, though with a bit less confidence. A lack of scares and an emphasis on thrills make it refreshing as one of the few vampire movies more fitting for a summer night watch than preparation for Halloween.